small is beautiful: sandra foster

I think of my new living space as a bird’s nest perched at the top of a most beautiful tree. It’s small and contained, but so very comfy. I like my little nest, and I’m increasingly drawn towards small spaces, having scaled down from too much house. The paring down was daunting—and sad at times—but ultimately, getting ruthless about de-junking was euphoric and freeing. My mission now is to stay as clutter-free as possible … and mostly, I’m holding up well against the challenge.

The Little Pie and I wrestled with this recently, when we were at our favourite thrifting haunt. Within seconds of walking in, we both spied an old globe and without even exchanging glances, made a mad beeline towards the treasure. He knows my Five Dollar Rule of Thriftiness: it must be a beauty, it must be functional and it’s gotta be no more than five smackers. He cradled the globe,  gave it a whirl, and smiled the smile of one who knows that it’s his lucky moment and that he’s arrived just in time: the Thrifting stars were all aligned. And then he sucked in his breath … There was no price tag.

Now, for any of you who practice the art of Thrifty Acquisition, you know there’s some delicate dancing involved in wooing (and, let’s face it, bending the will of) certain sellers. Pulling out a twenty, when you only intend to pay five bucks is bad form—no matter what. And repeatedly low-balling only succeeds in burning your Thrifty bridges. But having a kid with you? Well, it’s a lucky charm nearly every time. Especially one who (thank the mighty Gods of Thrift) remembers to dust off and use his manners. I love my kid, for reasons un-countable. But when we stood at the cash in that tell-all moment, I smiled a whole bunch more when I heard him ask:

Would you take five?

Our glorious five dollar globe left the store with a three dollar wooden cake pedestal and glass dome. My lucky charm and I threw high-fives and squealed all the way back to the nest.

These photos featuring Sandra Foster’s Victorian retreat—a former hunting cabin in the Catskills—underscore my love of small spaces and thrifty finds. I don’t know which aspect thrills me more: that it measures only 9′ x 14′, or that she renovated it entirely by herself—with furnishings—for less than three thousand dollars, every bit of it salvaged. I have a strong hunch that she has her own Five Dollar Rule.

Sandra Foster lost her family home as a teenager and never had a silver spoon. Her dream of a woodland refuge—a tiny studio of her own—was manifested through tenacity, sheer determination and hard work.

It lies across a stream, perched on a steep hill; there is no heat, and still no plumbing—a modest trailer on the land provides her with this. So where’s the “dream” in that? Well, take a peek and see just how magnificent small can be …

photos by: trevor tondro and sandra foster

Are you smitten? And ready to climb the ladder to that loft?! I thought so …

To fall in love just a little bit more, visit Sandra at My Shabby Streamside Studio and soak up a little background with this NY Times article. Enjoy the smallness of it all!